Zinc gets a lot of attention for its potential to treat colds. But this mineral isn't only necessary during cold and flu season.
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"Zinc is an essential micronutrient that plays a vital role in various functions of the body," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN and CEO of NY Nutrition Group. That includes supporting your immune system, healing wounds, DNA and protein synthesis and more. This nutrient also plays an important role in your senses of taste and smell, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most of us get the zinc we need through our diets, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There are exceptions though, where supplementing may be helpful. Plus, taking zinc may help speed up your recovery from a cold (more on that later).
If you're looking to supplement with zinc, here are some recommended options.
- Best Powder Zinc: GoBiotix Immunity Fizz Wellness Booster ($20.84, Amazon.com)
- Best Gummy Zinc: Pure Encapsulations Zinc Gummy ($21.50, Amazon.com)
- Best Liquid Zinc: Good State Natural Ionic Zinc (23.99, Amazon.com)
- Best Absorbable Zinc: Thorne Zinc Picolinate 30 ($33, Amazon.com)
- Best Budget-Friendly Zinc: Nature Made Zinc ($6.27, Amazon.com)
- Best Vegan Zinc: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc ($11.63, Amazon.com)
1. Best Powder Zinc Supplement: GoBiotix Immunity Fizz Wellness Booster
This supplement "can be mixed into water for a drinkable dose of zinc," Moskovitz says. As well as zinc, it has other nutrients that support your immune system, such as vitamin C and vitamin D, echinacea and elderberry, she says.
GoBiotix Immunity Fizz Wellness Booster ($20.84, Amazon.com)
2. Best Gummy Zinc Supplement: Pure Encapsulations Zinc Gummy
Pure Encapsulations makes a chewable option that contains 12 milligrams or 109 percent of your Daily Value (DV) of zinc. Moskovitz likes that this supp tastes good and is made with real fruit. This is a good option for people with allergies, as it's gluten-free and doesn't contain eggs, tree nuts, peanuts or wheat.
Each gummy has only 0.5 grams of sugar.
Pure Encapsulations Zinc Gummy ($21.50, Amazon.com)
3. Best Liquid Zinc Supplement: Good State Natural Ionic Zinc
This drinkable zinc supplement is a top pick from ConsumerLab, an independent organization that tests and assesses health and nutrition products.
Drops of this supplement are mixed into water or juice, and this product is suitable for children or adults. Once mixed into another liquid, ConsumerLab describes this product as "essentially tasteless."
Good State Natural Ionic Zinc (23.99, Amazon.com)
4. Best Absorbable Zinc Supplement: Thorne Zinc Picolinate 30
Moskovitz recommends this product for two reasons: It's NSF certified, which means it's been assessed and meets NSF's standards. Plus, "picolinate is a highly absorbable form" of zinc, she notes.
One capsule of this supplement contains 273 percent of your DV of zinc.
Thorne Zinc Picolinate 30 ($33, Amazon.com)
5. Best Budget-Friendly Zinc Supplement: Nature Made Zinc
This budget-friendly option is USP verified and easy to find, Moskovitz points out. Each tablet contains 200 percent of your DV of zinc.
Nature Made Zinc ($6.27, Amazon.com)
6. Best Vegan Zinc Supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc
Along with zinc, this product also contains vitamin C and probiotics. Large capsules contain 273 percent DV of zinc, along with 67 percent of your DV of vitamin C.
This supplement is NSF certified, Moskovitz points out. It's also certified vegan and gluten-free.
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc ($11.63, Amazon.com)
When Is Taking a Zinc Supplement Recommended?
In most cases, your diet will deliver the zinc you need. There are plenty of foods high in zinc.
"It is not difficult to meet the RDA [recommended daily allowance] for zinc through diet alone," Moskovitz notes.
People age 19 and up should get between 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc each day, according to the NIH. Here is the amount of zinc in several everyday foods, per the NIH:
- 1 ounce dried pumpkin seeds: 2.2 grams of zinc; 20% DV
- 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas: 1.3 grams of zinc; 12% DV
- 1/2 roasted, skinless chicken breast: 0.9 grams of zinc; 8% DV
- 8 ounces low-fat yogurt: 1.7 grams of zinc; 15% DV
If you want to max out your zinc intake, look to oysters. "Oysters are by far the richest source of zinc available with 74 milligrams of zinc per 3 ounces," Moskovitz says. That's 673 percent of your DV.
That said, even with zinc readily available from food, some people may have difficulties getting the zinc they need through their diet.
"Although zinc is prevalent in many commonly consumed foods, it is definitely most abundant in meat and seafood," Moskovitz points out. That puts vegetarians and vegans at a higher risk for zinc deficiency, she says. And it's not just the lack of meat and seafood — diets high in beans and grains (like many plant-based ones) mean taking in a compound that prevents zinc absorption, per the NIH.
There are other populations at risk for zinc deficiency too, such as people who are pregnant or lactating, people with GI disorders and adults over age 60, Moskovitz says. People with alcohol use disorder as well as people with sickle cell disease may also have deficiencies, according to the NIH.
Who Should Avoid Zinc Supplements?
Always check with your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking zinc (or any!) supplements, Moskovitz recommends. "Zinc supplements can interfere with certain medications including diuretics and antibiotics," she says.
Zinc supplements are generally considered safe to take, although nasal sprays, which are associated with a loss of smell, should be avoided, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But watch how much you're taking in. "It is possible to overdo zinc," Moskovitz says.
Taking too much zinc can lead to GI-related symptoms, such as indigestion, diarrhea and nausea as well as headaches. It also has the potential of lowering your immunity, HDL (aka "good") cholesterol and copper levels, according to the NIH.
Do not exceed 40 milligrams of zinc per day, which is the tolerable upper limit, per the NIH.
How Effective Are Zinc Supplements?
Zinc supplements can be beneficial if you want immune support and wound healing, Moskovitz says.
If your zinc levels are low, supplements are effective, per the Mayo Clinic.
Do not take zinc with fiber, per ConsumerLab — doing so prevents its absorption.
Taking zinc can shorten the length of a cold so long as it's taken within 24 hours of when the symptoms kick in, according to the Mayo Clinic. More research is needed to nail down which type of zinc supplement is most effective (and how much you need) to shorten a cold's duration, per the NIH.
Taking zinc may also be helpful in slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration and may also help heal wounds in people with skin ulcers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What About Zinc for COVID-19?
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, there have been many headlines heralding the potential for zinc to ward off or treat COVID-19. There’s not enough evidence to recommend for or against zinc as a treatment, according to April 2021 guidance from the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines. It does not recommend zinc supplements beyond the recommended dietary allowance as a preventative tactic.
What to Look for in a Zinc Supplement
The vast number of supplements that are available can make choosing one feel overwhelming. Keep these considerations in mind as you make your selection:
- Look for third-party testing: Seeing that a product is assessed by independent organizations — such as ConsumerLab — or has a seal from USP or NSF "ensures your product is tested, safe, reliable and contains exactly what it says on the label," Moskovitz says. An RD or doctor can also make a recommendation, she notes.
- Zinc quantity: "Since it is possible to overdose on zinc, find a supplement that has around 30 milligrams or less per serving," Moskovitz recommends.
- Watch for fillers: If you're opting to take a chewable supplement, make sure it's not loaded with sugar. And, if there are any ingredients that you are allergic to, check they're not in the product.